At Israeli 'Women's Empowerment' Event, a Single Female Performer, Added at 11th Hour

Women can 'sing aloud, but not from a stage that belongs to men,' lamented Ramle's only councilwoman, whom mayor slammed for being 'populist'

The municipality's offices in the central Israeli city of Ramle, November 2019.
Eyal Toueg

The central Israeli city of Ramle sent out invitations to a "women's empowerment evening” scheduled for Tuesday night – featuring only male speakers and performers.

After criticism on social media and queries from the press, the municipality disseminated a new invitation that mentioned that female comic Anat Aviad would also appear at the cultural event. She was only signed on to perform on Sunday.

Initial advertisements for the event, to be held at the Ramle Culture Hall in the presence of Mayor Michael Vidal, mentioned only a performance by the Tish B’Shelosha entertainment trio: musician Moshe Lahav, radio personality Jacky Levy and reporter Kobi Arieli.

The original announcement mentions that the Na'amat women’s organization was participating in planning the evening. Following the criticism on the absence of women, however, Na'amat asked that the reference to it be removed, or that female artists be added.

Among the critics was Ramle’s sole female council member, Rotem Cohen Kahlon, a member of the opposition from the Kulanu party. In a post referencing her, after the new invitation including Aviad's name was publicized, Mayor Vidal wrote: “Sad that there is a councilwoman in our city who is incessantly occupied with just one issue: smearing the city of Ramle and its people from every platform. But the city's administrators and I are here to continue to cast light on our city in every area and in every corner.”

Cohen Kahlon, who says she hasn’t been invited to the event, tweeted that the invitation offered women the opportunity to “sing aloud but not, heaven forfend, from the stage that belongs to men… And who wasn’t invited? Yes. The only city councilwoman in Ramle: me. Tell me more about women's empowerment.”

Later she told Haaretz that this was just one more example of the discrimination against women in local politics. “The municipal committee on the status of women doesn’t convene because the mayor doesn’t want me, as the only woman on the city council, to chair it,” she said. “That is how it has been and will be, without women making decisions – they won’t be on stage and their voice won’t be heard.”

In response to a query from Haaretz, Vidal said that Cohen Kahlon's comments are further proof of her "populist views" and of her aim of castigating him and the city. Aviad is the opening act, he added, and it will be followed by Tish B’Shelosha. “Bringing together women, men, secular and religious, that is empowerment,” the mayor said. “Women’s empowerment isn’t aimed at discriminating against men, but in creating a dialogue between women and men.”

A source in Ramle city hall said that omitting Aviad from the original invitation had been a “technical error,” noting that the municipality had first approached comedian Hana Laszlo, who is not appearing, which is why it only got in touch with Aviad belatedly.

Still, it should be noted, the men who will be on stage on Tuesday publicized their participation a month ago.

For its part, Na'amat commented that use of its logo by organizers of an event that excludes women – while purporting to be an evening of "women's empowerment" – is a grave mistake: “Na'amat didn’t organize this event but the mere fact that permission was granted to use its name by a local representative of Na'amat is disappointing and wrong.”